After you have children, any news stories about kids being hurt or endangered hits close to home. But this story, the Jessica Ridgeway story, hits so close to home it’s made it inside the front door.
- Jessica is 10. My daughter is 10.
- Jessica’s elementary school is 5 miles from my house.
- The park where they recently found a body is even closer.
- Her classmate is on my daughter’s soccer team.
To be honest, when I first heard the story I didn’t really feel it. Don’t get me wrong, I felt the normal oh, that’s too bad feeling, but I didn’t feel it. I assumed her Dad took her. It happens more often than you think in families, but after a few days that possibility was ruled out.
Wanting to Protect
My first reaction wasn’t to protect my kids, in fact I didn’t think of changing my behavior at all. Then I saw the reactions of my friends and I felt guilty. The mom guilt kicked in and I started second guessing myself. Maybe I should learn from this and do something to protect my kids from predators.
But, the thing is, there’s nothing I would have done differently than Jessica’s mom did. Her daughter was 10. She allowed her daughter to walk a couple of blocks to school with her friends. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. In fact, I let my kids walk to the bus stop and don’t think twice about it. Would I torture myself by rethinking that decision over and over if it were my child that had been taken? Of course. But the question I’m facing now is whether I should rethink how I’m raising my kids when it wasn’t them.
Should I change because of Jessica? or Shouldn’t I?
Parenting in my Head
Rationally I realize that I can’t protect them from a predator. Not really.
If someone is intent on taking one of my children they will be able to find a way. There will be a moment when I look away to take a call or they are on the other side of the soccer field at practice or are asleep in their beds, when they could be taken if someone is intent on doing so. The only way I could keep them completely protected would be with round the clock security and bodyguards, which I can’t afford.
My mind knows that I can’t control this. I can’t protect them from every ill that could befall them during their lives. I can’t predict if a car is going to drive into their ballet studio, if a hitherto unknown disease will come through their school, or if a stranger will take them. I can’t predict the random things that could take them from me, so logically I know I shouldn’t change my behavior in reaction to such an unlikely event as a kidnapping.
Parenting with my Heart
But that’s my mind. I am finally feeling this. The numbness of media desensitization is gone, the protective bubble of distance has been popped. I’m looking at Jessica’s picture and substitute my children’s faces.
My heart wants to know that I’m doing everything I can to make sure this is not my child. My heart wants to protect them and mama bear them, maybe even implant a GPS tracker – just kidding (sort of).
While my mind and my heart are at odds, there is one thing that they agree upon.
- Our schools have sent notices to parents about multiple attempts by strangers to lure children to their cars. That person or people are still out there and were in my neighborhood at one point. Who’s to say they aren’t still here? On top of that a child has been taken, it is no longer just a notice via email. It has happened.
This is tangible evidence that there is an immediate danger in close proximity to my children. This is not three states away. It is right next door. These are warnings I should heed. I can’t stick my head in the sand and comfort myself with statistics.
So, to listen to both my head and my heart:
- I will make sure they aren’t outside alone, but I’m not going to cancel playdates for fear the other parent won’t watch them closely enough.
- I will double check the locks at night, but I won’t make them stop playing soccer.
- I will teach them independence in the house and through responsibility, but will not be letting them ride their bikes 2 miles to the library alone.
For now this is my balance, my attempt to control the uncontrollable.
Do you think I’m reacting too much? Or not enough?
More Posts about Jessica:
The Sad and Gut-Wrenching Case of Jessica Ridgeway by Lenore Skenazy
Jessica Ridgeway: When the Answers Just Aren’t There on Denver Parent